Friday, September 5, 2014

Where Have All The Racists Gone?

Some of us still remember the days of segregation and discrimination against people of color in our state and nation.

I recall my late friend George Blakely describing the long rides to the Lucy Simms School that students of color from the Elkton area had to endure, seated on hard benches in back of an old bread delivery truck (without side windows) that served as their school bus.

I personally remember the separate colored and white public rest rooms, water fountains and waiting rooms, along with the balconies or separate seating areas in public auditoriums for people of color. Churches and cemeteries were separated by race, and the back seats of Greyhound or city transit buses were reserved for African Americans.

Some time ago I even ran across a notice in an old copy of the Rockingham Register announcing a KKK meeting to be held at the former Massanutten Caverns Lodge right here in our county. That may seem hard to imagine today.

But have all of the vestiges of this era of discrimination and racial bias disappeared since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision? Or the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of the sixties? Have all of our racists, to use the words of Pete Seeger, simply "gone to graveyards, every one"?

Many Americans appear to think so, judging by how quickly they accuse others of "race-baiting" or using the "race card" whenever the subject is even mentioned.

But unless we have come to believe that we can magically legislate morality and acceptance of others regardless of skin color or national origin--something I remember people vehemently denying could be done when Jim Crow Laws were being challenged--the problem of racial bias most certainly remains with us.

Witness the number of all white congregations in our area, and the small number of minorities in our police force and sheriff's departments--in spite of some improvements here over time.

Even closer home, I need to look at my own list of close friends and associates. How many people of other races, nationalities or faiths are a close part of my life?

At the deepest level, I need to search my own heart and repent of whatever racism may still exist there, probably a lot more than I have been willing to admit.
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